Anger isn’t an emotion that many of us feel comfortable with. But could we?
Being angry sounds big and scary. It sounds like an emotion that could easily spin out of control, hurt other people, and somehow make everything worse.
It sounds like a scary emotion, but it’s not.
Though many of us have come to believe otherwise, our anger is healthy. When we feel misunderstood or hurt, it’s often natural for some feeling to start churning in the pit of our stomachs and burning on the apples of our cheeks.
Growing up, we’re sometimes taught — directly or indirectly — that anger is a “bad” thing. But when anger is associated with negative actions, it becomes something to be feared and avoided. When anger is associated with being “bad” or “irrational,” it becomes a feeling we’d rather not experience or identify with. So we feel angry, and then we squash it.
Anger, the emotion, is not a bad thing. Just as we take time to explore our feelings of sadness, disappointment, and love, so could we take time to explore and understand our feelings of anger; it has a lot to tell us.
Anger Is Welcome Here
Have you ever found yourself in the middle of conversation with someone you love when suddenly they say something that just pushes your buttons, but instead of being honest about your feelings, you swallow them?
Maybe you are worried that you’ll say something you’ll regret later, or that if you were honest with your loved one, that they would be hurt or judge you. Maybe you’re so angry, so suddenly, that you feel it’s easier to choose to ignore your anger than to be vulnerable by giving voice to your feelings.
Where does that anger go once it’s been brushed aside? Does it ever really disappear?
For some people, maybe it does; for many others, probably not.
We all process and experience our anger differently, but ignoring this emotion often serves to build hurt, resentment, and distance in relationships.
Welcome anger when it comes to you, and invite it in for a chat.
Getting to Know Your Anger
Check in with yourself the next time you start to feel angry: how does your body feel? What thoughts are you having? Does your voice change in tone? What was happening just before you started to feel angry?
It’s alright if at first you feel like you’re playing a game of Clue with your own emotions. It may take time for you to notice patterns in the situations that trigger your feelings of anger, or to come to understand how your emotions are related to changes you notice in your breathing or posture.
How do you react to your anger in different situations? If you feel you’re struggling to cope effectively, or that your anger is destructive, reach out to a professional for help or seek a support group.
Sometimes anger can come from a place of hurt or vulnerability, so try to be kind to yourself as you reflect on the experiences and beliefs that may be contributing to the anger you’re feeling. Practice self-compassion as best you can during this getting-to-know-you process; the more you are able to understand what causes your anger, how it looks, and how it feels, the more prepared you will be to experience that anger fully and constructively.
Don’t Always Let It Go
As you become comfortable with feeling angry, you may start to experiment with how to tell someone you’re angry (though that’s a blog post for another day). Authenticity can do amazing things — for yourself and for your relationships. Constructively discussing situations that make us angry with our loved ones, or even strangers, can set the foundation for mutual understanding and security.
Once you’ve come to understand your anger, it’s important not to think to yourself, “great! That’s done!” Like many other things in life, becoming comfortable with your anger is a long-term process. But the more you allow yourself to hear what your anger is telling you, and use that insight to navigate new situations in a way that feels safe and authentic for you, the less scary this emotion will become.
Tapping into your anger to experience it fully isn’t always an easy task, but it can be a significant one.